Feudal Britain: The Completion of the Medieval Kingdoms, 1066-1314

By G. W. S. Barrow | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE OCCUPATIONS OF SOCIETY

I. The Church from Langton to Winchelsey 1

THREE main features characterise the history of the English Church in the century that followed the lifting of the Interdict in 1213. First, and most obviously, we must acknowledge the complete ascendancy of the reform movement. Secondly, it is clear that the importance of the monastic order relative to the other elements in the Church as a whole had suffered a marked decline. The third feature to be noticed provided compensation for the second, as well as being to some extent a cause of it. This was the arrival of the mendicant friars, especially the Dominicans and Franciscans. Finally, some account, however cursory, must be given of the universities. Oxford was the creation of the twelfth century, Cambridge of the thirteenth. But it was not until the period reviewed in this chapter that Oxford University became an indispensable part of the English Church and took a share in its life and work too considerable for even the general historian to dismiss with a bare mention.

(I) The Ascendancy of Reform.2 In our accounts of the Church under Lanfranc and during the twelfth century considerable space was devoted to the activities of the reform movement. It may therefore seem surprising that in the thirteenth century reform was still a vital issue. It might be thought that if the reformers had done their work properly in the earlier period there would be nothing left to reform. Alternatively, if they had failed, it might be supposed that this would have discredited their movement and discouraged the Church from further attempts. But in fact the medieval Church was extremely active, restless and self-critical. Not only was it

____________________
1
An excellent general account of this subject is given by Dr. J. R. H. Moorman , Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century ( 1945).
2
Much of what follows is based upon M. Gibbs and J. Lang, Bishops and Reform ( 1934), and J. Dowden, Scot. Hist. Rev., vii ( 1910), 1-20.

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